As evidenced by the previous posts in this series, the use of abortion victim photography is controversial. Using these images is not only contested by pro-choice advocates, but also by some members of the pro-life movement. The reason many are uncomfortable with the images is because they feel that doing anything that may upset others is not compassionate or loving. 

“This isn’t love,” I’ve heard people argue. “This just makes people upset! How can you say that you’re reaching out in a compassionate way when this just makes women feel bad?” 

In his new book Seeing is Believing, Jonathon Van Maren explains why showing AVP is the most loving and compassionate approach:

The first girl I ever spoke to in front of an AVP display forever changed my view on utilizing graphic visuals in public. I still remember the date: It was February 1, 2010. When I asked her what she thought about abortion, prepared to engage her intellectually, I was unprepared for her soft response: “Well, I had one on January 5.”

I had no idea how to respond. I’d been trained to explain that her child was a biological human being, but it was too late for her child. I’d been instructed on how to illustrate that her pre-born child was a person, but her pre-born child’s life had already been ended. 

I began to feel uncomfortable about the signs I was standing in front of. I asked her what she thought. She started crying. She was angry. “No one told me. No one told me it looked like that,” she said in a broken voice.

She continued, talking faster now: “All the reasons I had to abort—financial, educational, my difficulties with my boyfriend, seemed so logical at the time. No one ever showed me these pictures, or told me what abortion actually did. And now I have to live the rest of my life with the realization that I denied my baby Raven a chance at life. And there is no reason good enough for that.”

I realized then what I’ve realized thousands of times since: It doesn’t hurt a post-abortive woman to see a photo of an aborted baby. It only hurts her if she doesn’t see it in time, like the middle-aged Asian woman who told me she had two abortions, but wouldn’t have had either of them if she’d seen our signs while making the decision, and like the girl in front of a high school who wondered why no one had ever told her what abortion actually did before. Every year, many children die and many women and girls are irreparably wounded because we do not show them the truth. 

Abortion hurts women and kills their children. Seeing images of aborted children has changed helped countless women see the humanity of their child and choose life, a decision that brought these mothers immeasurable joy, and seeing these images has made other women realize that their abortion was not the right choice, and enabled them to find help and healing. Love is wanting another’s highest good, which means that in order to love we must tell the truth, even when it’s difficult to do so.

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